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Spirits are high as Chicago students go back to school after teacher strike

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
September 19th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

After seven days, more than 350,000 public school students went back to classes after Chicago's first teacher strike in 25 years. Spirits were high as students and parents returned to campuses that previously had been the scene of striking instructors.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Students said they were glad that the strike was over. "I was getting bored. I'm glad to be back," one student said.

"Enough was enough," one science professor said. "I'm so glad to be here today."

The Chicago Teachers Union's nearly 800-member House of Delegates voted overwhelmingly to suspend the strike earlier this week.

"We feel very positive about moving forward," CTU president Karen Lewis said. "We feel grateful that we have a united union and that when a union moves together we have amazing things happen."

The freedom for teachers to create their own lesson plans received a standing ovation from instructors. Delegates voted on the tentative deal article-by-article.

Other highlights of the contract include a seven percent salary increase over three years and 30 percent of teacher evaluations based on test scores. Principals will retain hiring power. In addition, one-half of new hires must come from a pool of laid-off teachers.

Vice President of Chicago's Board of Education Jesse Ruiz told NBC Chicago the agreement means more time for students and a revised evaluation system that hadn't been reviewed in 40 years.

"We need to continue these discussions," Ruiz said. "There are a lot of issues that came up that weren't specific to this contract that talk about the quality of our education system."

Mayor Rahm Emanuel called the deal "an honest compromise . In past negotiations taxpayers paid more but our kids got less," Emanuel said. "This time our taxpayers are paying less and our kids are getting more."

The new negotiations must be voted on by the teachers union, which could take a couple of weeks. It's expected to pass without incident.

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